Weighing in on Trump's impeachment

Replica of an Andrew Johnson impeachment trial ticket – courtesy of The National Park Service

For the past several weeks, President Donald Trump has been under intense scrutiny by the House Intelligence Committee, which is assigned to determine whether he abused his presidential power to assist his own reelection in 2020. Various government officials have already testified in front of the committee, as it slowly builds a body of testimony against the president.

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     Fifth Former Agustin Aliaga believes that the president should be impeached and removed from office.

     “We cannot have a president that has personal or political interests when conducting foreign policy for the strongest nation in the world,” Aliaga said.

     “I think if he did something wrong, then they’ll find out,” Sixth Former Jonny Sonnenfeld said, “And if he didn’t, then he won’t get impeached. They’ll figure out if he did something wrong or not.”

     Fifth Former Alex Hull takes a more skeptical stance.

     “I’m worried that things will get worse; it’s more complicated than him being an idiot, and people taking him out because of that,” Hull said. “Democrats definitely want him out, just from what I’ve seen, just to improve their chances in the next election.”

     Sixth Former Aditya Sardesai agrees.

“My issue with impeachment is that I don’t think that it’s going to move the country forward.”

Aditya Sardesai ’20

     “It should be universally understood that what he did was wrong, but I don’t think that he should be convicted,” Sardesai said. “My issue with impeachment is that I don’t think that it’s going to move the country forward. I think it’s just to widen the divide between Democrats and Republicans…You’re not going to get anywhere except rehashing old feuds.”

     “The primary political focus of the Democratic impeachment… is to make Trump less likely to be elected in the next election whether it goes through or fails. It could be—as it’s being argued by the Republicans—a smear campaign,” Fifth Former Maxim Kreider said. “If you look at a lot of the testimony and a lot of what has been put out by Nancy Pelosi—she’s made the allegations seem a lot worse than they are, and that’s on purpose.”

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     Even though some students have stronger opinions than others about impeachment, and some of that comes from not closely following the inquiry proceedings. Some of this comes from the inherent stance of the news in coverage of the impeachment inquiry

     “I don’t typically follow the news because it’s biased,” Hull said. “I don’t watch stuff like CNN, FOX, or anything like that because there’s still people writing the story being told, so they control what’s being kept in and what’s being kept out.”

     “[The news is] kind of sensationalized,” Sonnenfeld said. “You never know what you can actually read and trust.”

     “I haven’t had time with school and college stuff to take time out of my day to fully invest into the impeachment,” Sardesai said. “I might read a New York Times article, but I don’t have the time for anything else.”

     In the past weeks of History Behind the Headlines, held inside the Severinghaus Library, Headmaster Dr. John Nagl has given his own take on the inquiry proceedings. Students that attended his talks found it informative.

Dr. Nagl addresses the impeachment process during a _History beyond the headlines_ session in the library, Thursday, December 5, 2019 – photo by Mr. Thomas Stambaugh

     “He had a good take on it, and gave a lot of information about it,” Sonnenfeld said. “[T]he only details I really know about [the impeachment] was through that talk, so if that’s inaccurate, then all I know about it is inaccurate, so I don’t know if I can really say whether it’s good or not.”

     “I think it would be a great idea for Dr. Nagl to do something similar to his “History Behind the Headlines” with the entire upper school,” Aliaga said. “I would love to analyze current events past political controversies like impeachment. I would certainly value that over other assemblies we often have.”

     Hull is worried that such an assembly would still be unavoidably biased.

     “I think giving information is helpful and should happen, but it’s the same as the news—when it’s written, you typically follow a script,” Hull said. “People tend to be biased even when it’s not biased, so it’s difficult to get unbiased information out.”

     But even if it were possible to give an equitable evaluation of the impeachment, Sonnenfeld believes that an assembly would not sway students’ opinions.

“I think there would be too many arguments since people are too stubborn when it comes to politics. If you’re arguing about politics, nobody is ever going to be like ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right.’ There’s no point in discussing it at that point,” Sonnenfeld said.

It also seems that very few students have been talking about the impeachment in their peer groups, possibly because politics has become so polarized.

“Nobody ever talks about [impeachment], and if they do talk about it, it’s as a joke.”

Jonny Sonnenfeld ’20

“There were way more people that were following politics freshman year and it was way more discussed in our grade,” Sonnenfeld said. “Now, nobody ever talks about it, and if they do talk about it, it’s as a joke.”

“A lot of us can’t vote yet, so they don’t haven’t had the impetus to get informed…and if there’s not an election, as citizens we have no say in whether or not Trump gets impeached,” Sonnenfeld said. “So people aren’t discussing it, people aren’t debating it because it doesn’t matter what we think.”

Author: Toby Ma ’20

Toby Ma is an editor-in-chief of the newspaper, previously serving as managing editor and assistant editor of the Features section. He also contributes poetry and fiction to the school literary magazine Pegasus, and is a member of the Haverford VEX Robotics Team 169 “The Cavalry” and Model UN. His favorite subjects are English, history, and science. Outside of school, he enjoys reading and fencing.